Heart Of Darkness
By Joseph Conrad
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Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad ranked # 67 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad. Before publication, it appeared in a three-part series in Blackwood's Magazine (1899). This highly symbolic story is actually a story within a story, or frame tale, following a man named Charlie Marlow, as he recounts his adventure to a group of men, onboard a ship anchored in the Thames Estuary, at dusk and continuing into the evening. It details an incident earlier in Marlow's life when he, an Englishman, takes a foreign assignment as a ferry boat captain on what readers can assume is the Congo River in the Belgian owned Congo Free State; the name of the country is never specified in the text.
Though his job is to transport ivory downriver, Marlow quickly develops an intense interest in investigating Kurtz, an ivory procurement agent in the employment of the government. Kurtz's reputation extends throughout the region.
To write the novella, Conrad drew heavily from his own experience in the Congo: eight and a half years before writing the book he served as a ship's captain for a Congo steamer. On a single trip up river, he witnessed so many atrocities that he quit immediately thereafter. Some of Conrad's experiences in the Congo and the historical background to the story, including possible models for Kurtz, are recounted in the historical work, King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild.
The story within a story device that Conrad chose for Heart of Darkness - one in which an unnamed narrator recounts Marlow's recounting of his journey - has many literary precedents. Emily Bront's Wuthering Heights and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein use a similar device, but the best examples of this framed narrative include The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
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